Posts Tagged "Jacob Wetterling"

Eleven cases and counting…

A few announcements before I begin…

First, set your DVRs for Sunday, August 31, 8pm CST for the season finale of “The Hunt with John Walsh” on CNN. We got the official word last Friday, so we’re very excited to get Jacob’s story out in front of a national audience and see what happens.

I’m curious how they’ll put the story together since there’s not one known suspect to actually “hunt” in Jacob’s case, but I’m sure it will be great. John Walsh even got his first official capture last week, so if you missed the dramatic shootout between Charles Mozdir and NYC police, check out the story on CNN:

Charles_Mozdir_CNN

Second, I misreported some information in my “Tidbits” blog post a few weeks ago, which I have since corrected. I stated that I had recently learned about three additional Paynesville incidents that I hadn’t heard about before. One of the researchers from John Walsh’s show had relayed the information on to me, but the details were off just a bit.

On Tuesday, December 9, 1986, the Paynesville Press reported the following front page story (note, this article ran five months BEFORE the May 26, 1987 article that talks about the five Paynesville attacks):

-=-=-=-=-

Assault incidents reported

Two incidents on two separate occasions involving 13-year-old boys have been reported to the Paynesville Police Department.

The first incident was reported in August of this year and the second reported on Nov. 30.
On both occasions, the victims were attacked from behind and were verbally threatened. Neither of the victims were seriously harmed, according to the Paynesville Police. However, the second victim was sexually assaulted.

The Paynesville Police is cautioning parents to advise their children not to be out after dark because of the two incidents.

The Paynesville Police don’t know if the two incidents are related. There are currently no suspects in the investigation.

If anyone has any information concerning these two incidents, they are asked to contact Crime Stoppers, where a person giving information can remain anonymous, or contact the Paynesville Police.

-=-=-=-=-

Because this story ran BEFORE the article from May 26, 1987, I assume these two incidents from 1986 were already included in those five that were reported in May 1987.

Using this information, I’ve now compiled a list of ten separate Paynesville incidents, including two we haven’t found yet (August 1986, and Spring 1987). If anyone can help fill in the blanks, please comment below or visit my “Contact” page to send me a private message. In the next few weeks, the Paynesville Police Department will be working with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to look at these incidents more closely, so any help you’re able to provide would be greatly appreciated!

  1. March 9, 1986 – Attempted drive-by abduction of 12 year old boy near G&T Foods
  2. June 1986 – Three kids playing hide-n-seek at middle school playground, Town & Country Days
  3. August 1986 – By the river? At the middle school playground?
  4. November 30, 1986 – Alley between the middle school and hospital
  5. February 14, 1987 – Ben Franklin, downtown, 122 West James Street
  6. Spring 1987 – By the river? At the middle school playground?
  7. May 17, 1987 – By the hockey rink at the Catholic church, two boys riding bikes
  8. Summer 1987 – By the river #2, camping incident, man spying on group of boys
  9. September, 1987 – By the river #3, man in parka with orange lining, Lyndall Avenue
  10. Late 80s or early 90s – Boy chased from middle school to his aunt/uncle’s house

View the updated Google map…

Now, onto incident #11.

I received a message on my blog from a woman who had grown up in Paynesville and was 14 years old when Jacob was abducted. She is fairly certain this incident took place the summer before she started 9th grade, so that would make it the summer of 1989.

She is also the sister of the boy from incident #9 above. He was the one who was chased off his back porch by a man wearing a dark parka with orange lining.

Here’s her story.

-=-=-=-=-

One night, I was late for my curfew. I had been uptown at Papa’s Pizza with my friend and heard the 10pm whistle blow, so I knew I had to hurry home.

Normally I would have taken James Street home because it was lit, but since I was late, I decided to take the alley home instead because it was quicker. It went behind the Post Office (Bank of the West), and Haines Electric. When I got to the alley by Haines Electric, I was coming behind the first house on the right. They had a row of lilac bushes that was in the shape of an L, but there was a gap at the “joint” where they kept their garbage cans.

As I was passing that spot, suddenly the garbage cans got knocked over and a man came running out after me. I was so scared that I couldn’t even scream. I remember I could hear the gravel spinning under my tires, and I made some kind of sound. I think that’s when he realized I was a girl. I was kind of a tomboy, had short hair, and was riding a boy’s bike, so I’m pretty sure he thought I was a boy. He ran after me for about 20 feet, then he stopped. I remember looking back and knew it was a man’s stature. He was taller than me and was wearing a long dark coat.

I told my parents immediately when I got home, but I’m not sure they believed me… they maybe thought I was making it up because I was late. So, it never got reported. I’m pretty sure it was a Friday night… probably toward the end of summer. I remember having a light jacket on.

-=-=-=-=-=-

Again, thanks for following along. If you have any information regarding these or similar incidents around the Paynesville area during this time, please contact the Stearns County Sheriff’s Office at (320) 259-3700. You may also contact the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1-800-THE-LOST.

Next time… I’ll be sharing Brad’s story. He’s a 44 year old victim/survivor of childhood sexual assault, and helped put away a local sex offender who was an early suspect in Jacob Wetterling’s case.

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This crazy journey

road_journey

It’s hard to explain why I keep at this. For the past four years, I’ve been searching for Jacob Wetterling… a boy I’ve never known, from a town I had barely heard of. I researched and blogged about this boy for about three weeks in 2010, then put his case on the back burner for two years while I moved on to happier writing topics.

During that timeframe, I…

Purchased a set of old love letters on ebay

Took a sabbatical

Got to see Oprah

Wrote and published my first book

Put my first pet to sleep

Sold my business

Started calling myself a writer

Wrote a screenplay

Got some perspective

Wrote a poem

Got invited to make a speech

Reunited a pair of long-lost brothers

Returned a phone call

…and here I am… right back at it again. Full circle, baby.

Truthfully, I can’t fully explain what has brought me to this place. It’s been a long and winding journey with no real destination in sight. I’ve met a lot of good people along the way… people like me who care deeply about finding Jacob. We have put in a ton of time, spent a lot of our own money, and defended our sanity more than once to concerned family and friends.

The question is why.

Well, I guess I can’t answer for everyone, but here’s what I believe. In this search for Jacob… I somehow ended up finding myself. Somewhere along this crazy journey, I found my voice, my passion, and my purpose. That’s it, I guess. Pretty simple, really.

Oh, and maybe just one other thing… I really do believe we can find him.

Keep the thoughts, tips, and prayers coming…

#thinkingjacob

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Tidbits

Sorry… it’s been a while. The truth is, I’ve been mulling a lot over what to write about next. It seems I have a million details swirling around in my head, and it’s hard to focus on any one of them at any particular time. So, with that in mind, I decided to just write them all down in no particular order. I’m shooting straight from the hip here, so bear with me. We’ll see how it turns out.

First, this is just a reminder that John Walsh’s new show, “The Hunt,” premieres this Sunday, July 13, on CNN. It airs at 8pm CST, so make sure you do the math for your own time zone and set your DVRs appropriately. Jacob’s case will not be the first show. We were told it will probably air in September, and maybe even as the season finale. I’m not sure though… I’ll let you know when I hear something more definite.

I’ve spent the past several months focusing on the Paynesville incidents, and I have just a few more details to report.

First, there were two incidents that were reported by the Paynesville Press on December 9, 1986. The dates of those incidents were August 1986 and November 30, 1986. In both cases, the victims were attacked from behind and verbally threatened. The second victim was sexually assaulted.

The other article that was published on May 26, 1987 mentioned five cases, so I assume the prior two cases from August and November 1986 were included in those five. However, that doesn’t jive with the timing of our other incidents, so these may be two that we haven’t found yet. In comparing the May 26, 1987 newspaper article with our existing list (below), I believe the two we haven’t found yet would be two additional incidents that took place “by the river,” and “at the middle school playground.” I also believe the June 1986 incident was not included in either newspaper article.

Here’s the list:

  1. March 9, 1986 – Attempted drive-by abduction of 12 year old boy near G&T Foods
  2. June 1986 – Three kids playing hide-n-seek at Middle School playground, Town & Country Days
  3. August 1986 – By the river? At the middle school playground?
  4. November 30, 1986 – Alley between the middle school and hospital
  5. February 14, 1987 – Ben Franklin, downtown, 122 West James Street
  6. Spring 1987 – By the river? At the middle school playground?
  7. May 17, 1987 – By the hockey rink at the Catholic church, two boys riding bikes
  8. Summer 1987 – By the river #2, camping incident, man spying on group of boys
  9. September, 1987 – By the river #3, man in parka with orange lining, Lyndall Avenue
  10. Late 80s or early 90s – Boy chased from Middle School to his aunt/uncle’s house

Finally, here’s a quick update on one of the assaults I had previously blogged about… the one where the boy had a lock of his hair cut off by the attacker. Previous to his attack, that boy had been talking to a friend of his just outside the window of her house. Suddenly, according to the friend, the boy just stopped talking. It turns out the guy had grabbed this boy from behind, right in the middle of his conversation, and dragged him into the alley behind the house. Who does something like that?? Brazen.

Now, moving away from the Paynesville incidents for just a bit, I want to put the focus on St. Joseph again. Here are a few tidbits I’ve picked up from commenters on my blog.

First, there has been some debate over whether the police had their sirens on when they first responded to the call. I received a message from one commenter who said he was working that night at a business right on Minnesota Street, which is the main drag through St. Joseph. He was sweeping the parking lot outside, when he suddenly saw one cop car after another exit off I-94 and speed past him, headed toward the Tom Thumb. He recalls it vividly… police/troopers speeding through town at 80-100 MPH, lights on, but no sirens.

Second, here’s another tidbit I’ve mentioned once before. At the time of Jacob’s abduction, there was another boy who lived on 91st Avenue, who felt maybe he had been the intended target of the abduction that night instead of Jacob. He was 14 years old at the time, and unlike Jacob who had never been allowed to go to the store before after dark, this boy and his 12 year old friend had spent nearly every night that summer going to the Tom Thumb after dark.

Here’s his story. One night, he and his 12 year old friend were coming home from the Tom Thumb, maybe around midnight. They were on Baker Street and were taking a left onto 91st Avenue, when a car came from behind them and suddenly started coming faster and faster. As they got closer to the 12 year old’s house, they cut through the ditch, across his front yard, and into the open garage as fast as they could. The car followed them into the driveway, then backed straight across the road into the neighbor’s driveway, and flashed its bright lights on the two boys. The car stayed like that for about two minutes before the boys finally ran into the house.

A couple weeks later, the boys got brave and decided to head to the Tom Thumb once again. It was late, and this time, they noticed a car going from mailbox to mailbox… very slowly… like he was getting information from each residence.

The boys remembered the car looking similar to a Pontiac 6000, but they disagreed on the color… one said blue, the other said red. For this reason, they felt like maybe they weren’t believed when they told their story to the police just few days after Jacob was abducted.

This young man also had a few other interesting tidbits to share. First, regarding the party spot back in the woods… he remembers where that was. It was back by Palmerscheid Pond and Klinefelter Park. There was a road back there where people would party. He also mentioned it was possible to get a car through there… it was all woods, but with a little off-roading, you could weasel your way out.

Second, on the night of Jacob’s kidnapping, this young man’s family didn’t know anything had happened… they never heard a thing. No sirens, no helicopters… nothing. He remembers waking up the next morning to the sound of police dogs barking outside his bedroom window. His dad, however, swears up and down that about the time Jacob was kidnapped, the family dog was barking in the woods behind their house, which butted up to the Del-Win Ballroom. There were a lot of trails back there, but no way to get a car out… neither there, nor behind Rassiers’ place.

So, those are my tidbits for now. I’ve been doing a lot of research, making a lot of phone calls, and trying not to get too overwhelmed with all the details. I’ll try to write again soon, but in the meantime, keep the tips, comments, and prayers coming. And thanks again for following along.

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Another incident and some exciting news

Thanks again to everyone who continues to follow and comment on my Jacob Wetterling story. I have another incident to report that took place in Paynesville sometime during the late 1980s or early 1990s. I’ll share that in a moment, but first I have some other big news.

John Walsh from America’s Most Wanted has a new show called The Hunt coming out on CNN next month. He became interested in the new leads that have been generated in Jacob’s case, and is going to feature the story on his new show! His production crew was in town last week and interviewed Sheriff John Sanner from the Stearns County Sheriff’s Office on Tuesday, Patty and Jerry Wetterling on Wednesday, and Jared and me on Thursday. Here’s a picture of me with the crew — John, Vitaly, and Chris — who came to my house to do the interview last week.

CNNcrew_061914_cropped_sm

Walsh’s new show will premiere on July 13, 8pm CST. Here’s a snippet from the official press release from CNN’s web site:

The Hunt with John Walsh, a documentary-style, non-fiction program will take advantage of Walsh’s unique statue and perspective in television journalism and will tell stories of ongoing international criminal investigations in which the suspect is a fugitive at large. Through interviews with victims, loved ones and law enforcement and the exploration of new leads, The Hunt will provide the public with salient information to help in the fugitive’s apprehension. (Produced by Zero Point Zero Productions)

If you’re not familiar with John Walsh, I encourage you to Google his name and read his amazing backstory. After his son, Adam, was abducted and murdered in 1981, he went on to become an advocate for victim’s rights and launched America’s Most Wanted in 1988. In the 25 years that AMW was on the air (first on FOX, then on Lifetime), that show managed to track down 1,203 fugitives. That’s an impressive track record.

Watch a video interview with John Walsh…

JohnWalsh_video

I’m hopeful that by sharing Jacob’s story once again in front of a national audience, somebody might come forward with a piece of information that could help solve the puzzle. I’ll try and share more information about the show as it becomes available. You can also follow John Walsh on Twitter at @JohnWalshAMW.

Now then… on to another Paynesville incident.

I learned about this story from a 34 year old man who grew up in Paynesville and now lives in Minneapolis. He doesn’t remember exactly what year this incident took place, but he’s pretty sure he was in middle school at the time, so that would put it somewhere between 1990-1992. However, it may also have taken place when he was a little younger, so possibly late 1980s as well.

Here’s his story.

I was waiting for my Dad who picked me up from wrestling every night. He works in St. Cloud, and that night it was taking him longer than usual to get home. Possibly traffic.

I stood out in front of the Paynesville middle school, and sooner than later, I was by myself.

I then saw a long, dark, old green car (possibly brown) with an off white roof. It was driving around the block over and over. It was one of those old cars with a REALLY long hood.

I remember being a little creeped out that it kept circling. I didn’t see it for a while and felt relieved until I saw a figure walking down the sidewalk from the playground area toward me. He got closer and closer, and I could not make a face out because it was dark.

I started to walk away. He got faster. I got faster. Then he got faster again.

I ran to my aunt and uncle’s home who lived about 3-4 houses down from the school and barged into their house. When I peeked out the door, the husky guy briskly walked by and had a black ski mask on.

My dad came shortly after, and we immediately went to the police station.

One interesting note… this young man wrote a paper about his incident when he was in high school. He and his parents have been trying to find it to see if it might include more details or clues, but so far, no luck. (He did mention he got an A on it though!)

Also, here’s one final thing. A lot of people keep asking me who I think did this. The answer is, I don’t know. But since I learned about these Payneville incidents last summer, I’ve been operating under the assumption that one person is responsible for all of these attacks — Jared’s and Jacob’s included. That means the suspect would have to have a tie to all three locations – Paynesville, Cold Spring, and St. Joseph. That narrows the field pretty quickly and leaves us with a short list of strong possibilities. But… who knows. Jared and I continue to talk to people and are grateful for the help we’ve received so far.

Thanks again for following along and for “thinking Jacob” with me.

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Holy media blitz!

First of all, to everyone who has commented, emailed, or called in with a tip in response to our news story about the Paynesville incidents in 1986-1987, THANK YOU. By Friday of last week, KARE-11 reported that the Stearns County Sheriff’s Department had received over 30 tips, and I know I have forwarded at least that many myself. The response has been overwhelming, and I would especially like to thank the people of Paynesville for stepping up to the plate and facing this media storm with grace and compassion. It has not been easy.

Before our story aired on WCCO last week, my blog was averaging about 80 views per day. By Tuesday May 13, that number had jumped to over 30,000. (Yes, you read that right, I said THIRTY THOUSAND.) And that’s a day before our story with Esme Murphy on WCCO had even aired.

Fox 9 aired a story about my blog on Monday, May 12; KARE-11 had picked up the story by Tuesday, May 13; our story with WCCO aired in a two part series on Wednesday, May 14 and Thursday, May 15; and on Friday, May 16, Jared and I took part in a live radio broadcast with Esme Murphy on the Chad Hartman Show on News Radio 830 WCCO.

Since then, Esme Murphy has been following this story and has been researching new leads. You can follow her ongoing newscasts here: http://minnesota.cbslocal.com/personality/esme-murphy/

I am hopeful that these new tips will provide a breakthrough in these cases. As I stated in my radio interview, it’s not OK that this happened. These cases may be 25-27 years old, but that doesn’t make it OK. It was never OK, and it’s obvious by the incredible response to this story that others feel the same way. People are stepping up, taking a stand, and demanding answers. It’s that simple. These victims deserve answers, and they also deserve our support and respect. They are the real heroes here; they are the brave ones.

One question I’ve been asked repeatedly over the past two weeks is, “How did you ever get started writing about Jacob Wetterling?”

Well… there’s a long answer and a short answer to that question. I’ll try to explain the long answer below, but here’s the short answer:

I didn’t find this story; it found me.

In 2010, I started this blog because I was looking for a creative outlet that would keep me writing on a regular basis. I had recently uncovered a mystery involving an old, ramshackle beach cottage named Villa am Meer that I started researching and writing about. I loved how the story unfolded online, with people commenting and sending feedback as I wrote.

When that story started to come to a close, I began looking for another mystery to write about. It was the summer of 2010, and though I didn’t know it at the time, I was teetering dangerously close to what would soon become a full-blown mid-life crisis (or mid-life recovery, as I like to refer to it). I suspect everyone goes through this when they reach their 40s… it has something to do with reevaluating your life and wondering if you’re in the right place, doing the right things with the gifts you’ve been given.

I Googled “Minnesota mysteries” (or something like that) and found a lot of ghost stories that sounded intriguing but terrifying. I decided that was not my thing. I started researching a murder that had taken place in my county back in the 1970s, but that turned out to not be my thing either. I decided I wanted to write about something hopeful… something that might have a happy ending. And that’s what brought me to Jacob.

I had just begun researching the Wetterling case, when suddenly, out of nowhere, a news story came on TV about a possible break in the case. They were searching a neighbor’s farm, just up the road from the Wetterlings’ residence. I watched in disbelief… I couldn’t believe the uncanny coincidence.

I decided it was a sign.

On October 23, 2010, the day after the 21st anniversary of Jacob’s abduction, I needed to go to St. Cloud to buy a birthday present and decided to take the back road through Cold Spring and up through St. Joseph. It got real for me that day as I drove past the spot where Jacob was taken. It was real, and emotional, and impactful. I suddenly had a passion to find answers.

From there, it has been one crazy coincidence after another that has kept me on this journey. Believe me, I have tried to walk away. It has been scary, emotional, and frustrating. There are times I’ve have had to stand up for my integrity and my intentions, and I’ve gained a new respect for people whose careers require them to deal with tragedy and heartbreak on a daily basis. Somehow they have learned to set emotion aside and get on with their work, but I admit, that has not been an easy lesson for this mom of two boys.

Trust me when I say that good things have come from this recent media blitz. Good tips have come in, people have come forward, and we have discovered at least two more incidents that took place in Paynesville, and possibly others in surrounding areas. I will share what I can in the coming days and weeks, but for right now, this mom needs a break.

Happy Memorial Day.

#rememberingjacob

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